Toaster ovens vary in functionality, so the best model for one person may not be the preferred option for someone else. If you plan to make a lot of toast, you may find that toaster ovens have some unique advantages over slotted toasters, covered in a separate ConsumerSearch report. They have a see-though glass door that makes it easy to monitor browning, and larger models can toast up to six slices of bread simultaneously (most slotted toasters are limited to two or four slices).
Like top-rated standard toasters, the best toaster ovens let you choose your preferred browning level and have a bagel setting for optimal toasting. However, most toaster ovens can't toast as quickly and evenly as a standard toaster, and they take up more counter space.
Toast-making aside, toaster ovens with bake and broil settings can be a good stand-in for a conventional oven. Some models even feature a rotisserie for roasting a whole chicken or large cut of meat. Toaster ovens heat up faster, consume less energy and may cook faster than a full-size oven. If you plan to use your toaster oven for baking, you may want to get one with convection heating. Convection ovens have a fan that circulates the air for faster and more even cooking, although users say the fans on some models are quite noisy. A digital display and touchpad controls add to the overall cost, but many users like the convenience of these features and they tend to hold up better over time. We found numerous complaints about malfunctioning knobs on models with manual controls. Ease of cleanup and size -- particularly the interior depth and height clearance -- are also important considerations.
Shoppers should consider the following when comparing toaster ovens:
You can find a decent microwave oven for about the same price as a mid-range toaster oven. Microwaves, of course, are not adept at toasting and browning, though they do heat leftovers quickly. See our report on microwaves for more information.